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Megan Smith says growing up is like growing rings on a tree

Student Life

By Megan Smith

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

An old saying, but one that I’ve found holds a lot of truth for me as I navigate a strange period in my life.

Birthday milestone

When I was younger, I used to think that “growing up” meant becoming a drastically different person, leaving behind your childhood to blossom into a full-fledged adult.

The thought of this full-on metamorphosis scared me. I liked who I was, why did I have to change?

Now, a few days past my 19th birthday — the big one, old enough to engage in all of adulthood’s virtues and vices — I realized that my younger self’s fears were unfounded.

Growing up doesn’t mean abandoning what makes you the person that you are.

I still listen to most of the same music, enjoy many of the same things and engage with many of the same people as I did when I was younger.

“In leaving some things behind to the past, I open myself up to the future.”

The person I was as a child never went away — she’s still there in everything I do.

Sure, not everything has stayed the same.

There are many places I can no longer go and people I can no longer see, all tinted with the bittersweet melancholy of nostalgia.

But in leaving some things behind to the past, I open myself up to the future.

First adult steps

One standout example is my transition from high school to university.

Leaving behind the structure of grade school, knowing that I may never see many of the familiar faces I’ve become accustomed to over the past decade again, was a tough moment.

But, for my first two semesters as a university student, I realized I had to put it behind me to step into something better.

And better it is — I’m an academic at heart and have found a path I truly enjoy, something I wholeheartedly thank my friends, family and teachers of my formative years for.

I hope that whatever I do, I will make them proud.

I’m not a child anymore, and I never will be again. I’ve grown, matured and taken my first steps into adulthood.

And in a way, I did close that first, formative chapter in my life, setting it aside definitively.

It’s something that, in the end, I can’t hold onto forever.

Time passes, and some things must end.

“I feel closer to my younger self than ever.”

But, that doesn’t mean I magically became a different person overnight. Growing up doesn’t have to mean drastically changing the core of your identity.

In fact, I feel closer to my younger self than ever: taking her thoughts, feelings and wishes and tempering them with adult sensibilities and skills.

There’s no harm in indulging your inner child from time to time — they got you this far, and they’ll always be inside you, no matter how many layers grow around them like tree rings throughout the years.

‘Do it on purpose’

So, if there’s one piece of advice I can give my younger self, it’s not to worry.

She’s not going to just disappear once I become a “grown-up.”

I can’t promise that everything will stay the same, but there’s nothing wrong with change and growth.

The things that weren’t meant to stay won’t stay, but the important things will never go away.

In the end, you’ll always be you.

“Find out who you are, and do it on purpose.” — Dolly Parton

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